Baseball, Football Ramblings
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 09, 2006

AS MAJOR LEAGUE baseball heads into the stretch drive, the situations in the two Western Divisions are quite different.

In the AL West, the A’s have taken advantage of the inter-divisional play the past two weeks to turn a race that had been artificially close into what I always thought it would be: a two-team race with the A’s and Angels. The Rangers added Carlos Lee during the inter-league trading period but, unfortunately for them, he can’t pitch. The Rangers and Mariners were both 6 ½ games out at the start of play today, and both teams should start planning for next year.

The A’s are finally starting to get some breaks. Milton Bradley has given them the kind of lift since the All-Star game that they had hoped for earlier. Frank Thomas has been a home run threat all season and now his average is climbing – and he’s even run the bases better. Jay Payton has been great in the clutch. Nick Swisher is getting his strength and his power back.

It won’t be easy for the A’s because the Angels have come off the mat, too, since early season, and they have excellent pitching. The two teams are virtual carbon copies of each other, winning primarily on pitching and defense and hoping for timely hittting. They’ve split their 12 games this season and have played 15 one-run games in their last 31.

If the A’s can prevail and if they can get Rich Harden back in September, they could have a formidable rotation for the postseason, with Harden, Barry Zito and Dan Haren. Without Harden, it’s hard to see them going far, though, because the power is definitely in the American League.

The NL West has been a topsy-turvy division all season, with teams trading winning streaks. The Dodgers are the latest with 11 straight – which means they’ve won 12 of their last 25.

There’s no standout team in the division, but the crazy thing is that the wild card may come out of the division because of the overall weakness of the league. As of this morning, the Dodgers and Cincinnati are tied for the wild card lead, with Arizona a game back and Colorado 3 ½ games back. That means that there are four NL West teams who can reasonably think they can either win the division or get the wild card.

And then, there are the Giants.

THE LATE Leonard Koppett used to say that baseball is the blue collar game and football the white collar game. His reasoning was that a fan has to follow baseball on a daily basis, and if you pass a construction site, you’ll often hear radio broadcasts of a game. You can’t play a radio in an office, but workers can catch up with football on the weekends because, except for Monday night football, no games are played during the week.

And if you want to know why the NFL has surpassed baseball as the major sport, the ascent of television at the expense of radio is a good explanation.

I use both mediums, in addition to going to a couple of games a week – including this afternoon’s A’s-Rangers game – to observe first-hand. I find telecasts valuable if I’m monitoring pitchers, because you can get a first-hand view of the pitcher, seeing the break on his curve and the movement on his fast ball, instead of just checking the speed on the ball park radar.

Radio, though, is much more informative, because announcers have so much time to fill between pitches. I get valuable information from Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Dave Flemming, who’s maturing nicely, on the Giants broadcasts, but I think A’s announcer Ken Korach is unexcelled in giving information about the A’s and the rest of the baseball world. I haven’t always appreciated Ray Fosse, but Korach seems to be drawing out the best in him as well. When the two were talking during a recent game about a catcher setting up for a pitch without giving away location to a batter, Fosse noted that a veteran pitcher like Greg Maddux might tell the catcher to set up in the same location every time and he’d use something other than the glove for his target, such as the right or left knee of the catcher.

OH, YIKES: The one drawback to baseball on the radio: the commercials. I’ve been offended for some time by the beer commercials, which portray young males as retarded, but even those have been surpassed by the automobile insurance company which has some idiot shouting, “Only cheapo cars, remember!”

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: NFL teams have gotten themselves into a bind with their promotion of the draft because, if you tell your fans the guy you draft No. 1 is going to make a big difference, you have to sign him and get him into camp. Agents know that, so they’ve been able to get huge signing bonuses and contracts for their clients before they ever take the field. Everything is turned upside down – but that’s the modern sports world.

RIPOFF TIME: The NFL exhibition season – otherwise known as the biggest ripoff in sports – is about to start, and once again, season ticket holders have to shell out for these games just as if they counted.

In the ‘50s, Baltimore sports editor John Steadman campaigned against this practice, forcing the Colts to sell exhibition game tickets separately from regular season. The Colts drew only about 15,000 for those games. In the early years of the AFL, teams often took to the road for exhibitions, going to cities where fans didn’t know better.

The exhibition games have value for the coaches, as a way to evaluate talent. For those fans who enjoy doing their own evaluation, they have some merit. But nobody should be forced to buy tickets for these games as part of the season ticket package. The NFL should be ashamed to continue this practice, at a time when the money is just pouring in.

ABOUT TIME: The Cincinnati Bengals have instituted a program this year which gives fans the ability to call a number to report abusive behavior by other fans. Security people can then respond to the problem. Yes, the Raiders should definitely try such a program, too. Of course, the line would always be busy.



LETTERS: I've updated this section as of August 10.

TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS!: Tickets will be available on this link for these hot concerts:
--Barbra Streisand, Oct. 4-November 20.
--Mariah Carey, through November 10
--Aerosmith & Motley Crue, September 9-Octover 25.
--Red Hot Chili Peppers, August 18-December 17.
--Pearl Jam, through November 5.
You can also get tickets to these hot football matchups:
--Cal at Tennessee, Sept. 2.
--Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, Sept. 2
--Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 7
--Penn State at Notre Dame, Sept. 9
--Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, Sept. 10.
Just click on the links to buy or sell tickets to local or national sports and cultural events.

CRUISE WITH ME: I am organizing a sports-oriented cruise of the Panama Canal, Feb. 16 to March 3, starting in San Diego and ending in Fort Lauderdale, aboard Holland America’s Volendam. While we’re at sea, we will have sports seminars and discussions about your favorite teams. For further information and prices, please contact my travel agent, Janice Hough, at janicehough@yahoo.com.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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